Vanessa R. Schwartz, “Who Killed Brigitte Bardot? Perspectives on the New Wave at Fifty,” Cinema Journal 49, No. 4 (Summer 2010), 145-152.
This is a shorty but pithy essay in Cinema Journal‘s nouvelle vague anniversary issue, explaining (in different words) that various critical power structures have defined French cinema in the 1950s and the New Wave in certain terms, including some films, persons, and audiences, and excluding others. Thus, the image of the New Wave we have at present is separate from the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Jacques Demy, and even Agnès Varda. Bardot pre-dated the New Wave, and by the time she appeared in films by Godard and Malle, her presence was directly tied to her star status (see Contempt). Demy’s films (such as Lola) might have made it into the New Wave canon, but his filmmaking practices (such as contributing to the musical genre and remaking his own films) have placed him outside of the New Wave boundaries. As for Varda, simple sexism seems to be the main problem. Her La Pointe Courte pre-dated The 400 Blows by a good four years, and because she wasn’t associated with Cahiers du Cinema, she would not be part of the New Wave, except for her eventual de facto inclusion in the Left Bank crew on account of her work with Alain Resnais. Schwartz points out that by 1965, UniFrance Film made a call for changes in the French film industry that brought film back to mass/popular audiences rather than art films that catered to a privileged class (an irony of the nouvelle vague above all the others). On account of all of this, the current picture of French cinema in the late 50s and early 60s is consumed with the nouvelle vague to the neglect of popular and (truly?) proletarian films. Also, international factors regarding the acceptance of the New Wave and the acceptance of Bardot as a certain icon of French femininity played roles in the way the dividing wall was built. As Schwartz says, the New Wave was clearly tied to popular cinema, not only of the American variety but the French, too. She calls for a revision of these boundary markers now that the nouvelle vague, at 50, has reached “maturity.”